Article originally published in the Huffington Post.
Conference season has drawn to a close as the requiem of Theresa May’s premiership played out on the floor of the conference hall in Manchester. The last two weeks have illustrated a tired government: without ideas, without a clear mandate, and most crucially of all – without hope. What a contrast we’ve seen over the last fortnight as a beleaguered Prime Minister attempted to renew the fatally-tainted brand of the Conservative Party whilst an energised Labour Party offered an optimistic vision which would benefit the entire United Kingdom.
I have to admit, on a human level, I did have sympathy for the difficulties Theresa May faced during her conference speech. From being handed the P45, to the issues with her voice, and of course, with her slogan literally falling apart as she spoke, it can’t have been an easy time for the PM. Having said this, what I cannot stomach is that, within a speech lasting nearly an hour and a quarter, she failed to mention Wales once. Over seven thousands words and not a single snippet for Wales. For me, this highlights the sheer contempt this Prime Minister – and this tired government – has for Wales and the Welsh people.
Instead, we’ve been presented with a four day proxy leadership election. “A country that works for everyone” has been the rhetoric parroted by minister after minister over the course of the last few days. But where is the substance? Where are the indications that the Tories have listened to the electorate which rejected their plan for Britain in June? They simply never materialised. Instead, we’ve had briefings and back-stabbings from the Foreign Secretary. The much-trailered Boris Johnson wrecking ball has been attached to its chain and is now waiting to be released. The question as to whether Theresa May releases him from the gantry or if his descent begins under the weight of his own ego is the only factor in this scenario which remains uncertain.
The Johnson sideshow personifies the key theme of this year’s Tory conference: all posturing and no substance. No radical policy proposals which will turn around the lives of those struggling after seven long years of Tory cuts. No announcements of key infrastructure to catalyse economic growth and prosperity in our regions. No sign that they will do anything over the next five years but blunder through the Brexit negotiations – which will define how we all move forward as a country – in a chaotic and highly unprepared manner.
Looking back to just a week ago, we saw a clear vision of what Labour stands ready to deliver in government. Investment, a jobs-first Brexit, a fair deal for public sector workers, dignity for pensioners in old age, the scrapping of PFI (following the lead of the Welsh Labour Government), fairness in taxation, and above all an antidote to the apathy and despair which this Tory government has fostered. Labour have offered a vision for ordinary people to improve their lives and succeed with their aspirations. Above all, I’m delighted that we as a party are firmly challenging the notion that the status quo is in any way acceptable. We must preside over a stable and sustainable economy, but that in no way means that we can’t invest to help our economy grow. Labour will create the skilled jobs people across our country are crying out for and deliver for hard-working people, whilst maintaining a safety blanket for those who are unable to do so. Welsh Labour have demonstrated how effectively we can do this when in power under the leadership of First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM. This conference season has illustrated just how much better Britain could be if Jeremy Corbyn replaced Theresa May in Number 10.
The difference between Labour and the Tories could not be clearer. As a party, we are united in our progressive vision for how Britain can recover and thrive once we evict the Tories from office. Theresa May’s party on the other hand is on notice: people up and down the country are sick and tired of their dismal reluctance to provide our communities with the investment we so badly need. This was made yet clearer by the Prime Minister again this week refusing to renege on her decision to scrap the electrification of our railways west of Cardiff, in the Midlands and in the North of England, having previously promising to deliver this infrastructure. Former Welsh Secretary, Stephen Crabb MP, recently described the decision to use bi-modal trains in place of full electrification as a “second best” option for South Wales. After this conference season, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Theresa May is content with providing “second best” solutions to the issues which face communities across Wales and the UK as a whole.
I and my Labour colleagues say no: second best is never good enough for Britain.